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This is an Archive copy of the 2016 Field Trip Page
for the months of February, March, April, May and June 

Club members capture elusive Yosemite "Fire Fall"

during February Photography Field Trip.  

Story by Kate McCarthy


This year’s winter field trip to Yosemite, February 15-19, 2016 was everything and more than we could wish for with a perfect mix of weather and water conditions.  Most of the park is closed for the winter, but the Yosemite Valley is filled with plenty of opportunity to practice our photographic skills.  The winter season is perhaps the best time to go to Yosemite because of the availability of parking and fewer crowds to navigate and compete with for rooms, food and photographic sites. 


Due to the California drought, the last several seasons in Yosemite Valley were dry.  The iconic photography of the “Natural Fire Fall ” of Horsetail Falls only exists for a few weeks in February due to the angle of the sun, and opportunity is often limited due to cloud cover or lack of water.  Photographers from all over the world flock to the banks of the Merced River or the meadows near the cliffs El Capitan to catch a glimpse.  


Several members of the club came early to search out a good spot to set up for the sunset.  Kathy Houston and Kate McCarthy spotted a large group of photographers setting up on the south side of the Merced River and set up their tripods and chairs to wait the two hours before sunset. They could hear conversations French, Japanese, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Chinese all around them.  Les Thomas, Patrick and Susan Jewell tried their luck in a meadow on the north side with a closer shot of the falls, which held a full spray of water due to El Nino snowfall. 


The weather was perfect and as the sun dimmed and the light changed from gold to orange, a ribbon of fire seemed to flow down the cliff.  Shutters chattered for thirty minutes as all attempted to capture the scene. When the light finally faded, a loud cheer went out from the riverbank in appreciation for the wonderful sight.  For some this was the first good shot in the twenty years they had come to Yosemite for this spectacle. All were in good humor as they packed their gear and went to Yosemite Lodge to check in, and talk over camera angles at dinner. 


Of the 21 club members on this trip, a majority traveled into Yosemite on Tuesday while those who were here searched out shots reflective shots of Half Dome from the banks of the Merced River or Stoneman Bridge.  Sometimes we didn’t know what we had until we reviewed the shots in the camera. Kathy delighted in a beautiful starburst effect in one of her river shots.  Members wandered up and down the valley looking for the just the right light hitting a grove of trees or a meadow.  Others explored the angles in a granite rock fall or exfoliation patterns on a cliff.  The rainbows in the mist below Yosemite Falls were another favorite.  In the afternoon all converged to their favorite spots to await the Natural Fire Fall.  An eagle winged its way down the Merced sending Les, Truman, Jack Ferrante, and Larry White scrambling for their cameras…and Larry, of course, got the shot.  However, sunlight graced the skies, and we were given another chance to capture the magnificent Fire Fall.


Club Members shared their experiences at dinner and breakfast.  Lively discussions over best practice and “secret” spots were revealed.  Questions were asked on how to shoot the icy slopes around Bridal Vail or what part of the day would be best for Cathedral Rock, or Sentinel Rock.  Would Tunnel or Valley View be clouded out by the approaching storm?  Dorothe and Bill Kress captured a wonderful twilight shot of the chapel glowing with inner light. The antics of the ravens were a favorite subject.  Future trips to Cuba and Death Valley were mentioned as well as favorite spots on the coast.


The club took advantage of the sun on Wednesday morning, and the opportunity to capture an Ansel Adam’s moonrise over Half Dome presented itself. However, the storm edged into the valley dampening hopes for another Fire Fall as the clouds increased and flattened the light. Hourly weather reports were checked as the club explored available sites. Some said snow, some said rain.  A large group went to the famous Ahwahnee Hotel for lunch, delighting in the menu choices, conversation, and the availability of interior shots on a blustery day.  When we finally retired for the evening, we fell asleep to the rain battering the windows. 


We awoke to a silent world.  Snow was falling, flocking the trees, and giving our world a fresh coat of white.  Many ventured out before breakfast to capture the transforming landscape.  Most would be leaving this day, but were intent on finding the break in clouds, the right slant of light, that would bring all their talents into play.  A bobcat appeared near the lodge, looking for shelter from the storm. Wisps of fog and low clouds merged and separated along the cliffs.  Those who left that day paid attention to chain requirements, and those who stayed Thursday night delighted in the best prize of all; a snow framed shot of the Natural Fire Fall.


The travelers gathered on March 4th to share their treasured shots over a warm meal and a nice glass of wine thanks to the hospitality of Les and Marilyn Thomas.  Some of these photographs are making their way into member galleries, SIGs, and the general meeting slideshow.  Deep appreciation is felt for Les, who dedicated his time to plan and prepare information packets to guide members. Now back in our homes we count ourselves fortunate to live in such a beautiful state and to enjoy the fellowship of so many talented people.

Some of Our Photos
A hardy crew of intrepid souls braved the cold and snow to capture the beauty of Yosemite in winter.
Here are a few shots of our adventurers!

Lincoln Hills Photography Club members who went on this great adventure included: Les Thomas, Truman and Sandy Holtzclaw, Phil and Pam Harmon, Bill and Dorothe Kress, Kate McCarthy, Patrick and Susan Jewell, Kathy Houston, Fred and Margie Buhler, John and Ursula Neil, Dale Petersen, Bob Baikauskas, Jim De Deo, Bob Dale, Larry White and Jack Ferrante.  Several club members including Stephanie and Phil Huntingdale could not go with the group because of scheduling conflicts but went in advance and submitted updates on weather and water conditions.

Several of our Yosemite Winter Scenes and Natural Fire Fall 2016 “Trip Packs” of information distributed at our pre-trip planning meeting are still available to members upon request.  Contact Les Thomas if would like one of these information guides.

Yosemite's famous "Natural Firefall" will be focus of Photo Club's February 16-18 Field Trip

Story by Kate McCarthy


Club members will explore Yosemite from February 16th through 18th in a field trip organized by Les Thomas.


The highlight of the trip will be the world famous Horsetail Falls “Natural Firefall”. Photographers from all over the world flock to Yosemite in hopes of capturing this “natural firefall” which only happens for about ten days in February. 


Classic Yosemite Views Abound


Hopes are high that the cloud cover and waterfall flow will be in our favor. Other classic views include Ansel Adam’s famous Tunnel View, Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, Cathedral Rocks, the Ahwahnee Lodge, Valley View, Half Dome, Meadow Chapel, Three Brothers, and other winter delights. 


The fieldtrip is open to everyone from beginners to pros using everything from point & shoots, and phones to more complex cameras. Night photography, light painting, and other landscape techniques learned in previous club activities and SIGs will be put to good use.


January 15th Trip Planning Party


Specific information will be available during the Planning Party at Les Thomas' home on Friday, January 15th starting at 4:30. 


At that time members will share expertise on the best times and places to shoot famous winter scenes, including the fourteen “secret locations” used by highly paid guides.  A discussion of maps, guidebooks, websites, and apps will provide guidance and ideas to help members plan their visit.


If you would like to go or have questions email Les at or call him at (916) 698-7783.


Photo by Bob Dale

Photo by Vicki White

Photo by Pete Henshaw


by Brad Senn

Yosemite Field Trip Slated for February 16, 17 & 18
Planning Party January 15  at Les and Marilyn's

Our next field trip is being planned by Les Thomas and will occur February 16-18, 2016. This trip will be to Yosemite National Park during the time period that the “natural Fire Fall” occurs. A Planning Party will be held on January 15 at Les and Marilyn’s house. For those interested please contact Les or Marilyn. See below for a link to more information. Keep in mind that one of the more urgent challenges is obtaining lodging. This is a very popular event and attracts people from around the world so if you are interested you need to make hotel reservations quickly.


This particular trip was previously done in February 2013 with great overall success. Unfortunately, the Fire Fall event was not as spectacular as it could have been due to low water levels feeding Horse Tail Falls caused by the drought (that issue should not be a problem this year). For a photographer one of the wonderful things about Yosemite is the tremendous variety of potential subjects we can photograph, so even if Fire Fall is not great there are many other possibilities to stoke your imagination and provide incredible subjects. For more information about the planning party and the trip itself click  HERE 

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